WKNC'S DOUBLE BARREL BENEFIT
During the last decade, as WKNC has repositioned itself as one of the most ardent boosters of and outlets for music made in North Carolina, some of the Triangle's most popular bands have played the station's annual benefit—Megafaun, The Mountain Goats, Polvo, Annuals and so on. Those appearances raised awareness as much as funds for WKNC's retrenched localism, showing that the Wolfpack kids cared. In 2013, though, if you're interested in sounds made near home, you likely know that N.C. State's radio station is a righteous source for learning about them. As such, for the 10th-anniversary Double Barrel, WKNC chose not to return to the familiar well of famous boosters but instead to advocate for the relative upstarts. On Friday, the bill opens with the frenzied narcotic sprees of The Lollipops, goes dancy and dreamy with Jenny Besetzt, turns panoramic for Lilac Shadows and offers a slow-burn alt-country coda with J Kutchma. Oulipo's squiggly pop starts Saturday before yielding to the stately sprawls of Some Army and the anxious narratives of Wesley Wolfe. Spider Bags, one of the funnest bands on the planet, headlines. There are more notable and perhaps better bills this weekend, but WKNC presses ahead with its Triangle advocacy, stars on the bill or no. FRIDAY–SATURDAY, FEB. 1–2, AT THE POUR HOUSE. $10–$12/10 p.m.
BULL CITY METAL FEST
Late last year, when longtime Casbah booking agent Steve Gardner left the venue, area fans of the heavy stuff worried that his crowning achievement at Casbah, Bull City Metal Fest, was done. Instead, in year three, it's better than ever before. Diverse and loaded, this lineup keys on the epic arches of classic revivalists Dawnbringer and the red-eyed vitriol of Weedeater. Fight Amp's punky menace adds weight, while one-man death metal riot Bloodsoaked adds speed. FRIDAY–SATURDAY, FEB. 1–2, AT CASBAH. $15/7 p.m.
It's difficult to write about The Residents without sliding into instant and ultimate hyperbole: They are completely anonymous! They are very influential! They are endlessly prolific! They are, as one book posited in its title, America's Most Eccentric Band. Above all, though, The Residents—a crew of unidentified and tireless pop music and multimedia misfits who have been warping beats and caricaturing melodies for four decades now—are an endless reminder of the possibilities of creativity when that is the end-all, be-all purpose of your career. That's not to say they're not sharp business people: They just issued a $100,000 box set, and, hey, we're still curious after all these years. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 6, AT THE ARTSCENTER. $25–$30/8:30 p.m.
AMJAD ALI KHAN
At the start of a three-hour concert in India in 2011, led by sarod master Amjad Ali Khan with his sons Amaan and Ayaan, the master of ceremony puts it politely: "Ladies and gentlemen, may I kindly request you to silence your mobile phones?" The request was important not only because, as one of his country's most popular musicians, Ali Khan demands great respect, but also because his music is both trance and vortex. The droning tones of the instrument his family claims to have invented are an overwhelming narcotic wave, but the melodies and rhythms are incredibly active, lashing about and percolating with the enthusiasm and inquisitiveness of a wild animal emerging from a season of dormancy. Simply put, Ali Khan's music creates a world of sound, complete with the din of the day and the surprises of life; there's no room for distractions. FRIDAY, FEB. 1, AT DUKE'S PAGE AUDITORIUM. $10–$42/8 p.m.
WRITERS IN THE ROUND
Two of the songwriters in this four-tunesmith round are responsible for two of the year's best albums. With Mount Moriah, Heather McEntire's songs on Miracle Temple continue to explore personal freedom and feeling, detailing her attempts to wrest control of her identity away from the Southern mores in which she was raised. Identity is an important theme for Hiss Golden Messenger leader Michael Taylor, as well; on his forthcoming Haw, he views family, faith and creature comfort through the lens of an adult, settling in for the rest of his life. Megafaun's Phil Cook is the third local on this bill led by Amy Ray, the fully empathetic and earnest co-leader of the Indigo Girls, another band that serves as a semaphore of self-identity. THURSDAY, JAN. 31, AT CASBAH. $15/8 p.m.
Congolese rhythms suggest a great, clean expanse of canvas, held taut at both ends and lifted up and down in see-saw undulations. The patter of the ngoma is relentless and restless, always there but constantly rising and falling, accelerating and decelerating. Congo-born dancer, percussionist, teacher, bandleader and Cary resident Pline Mounzeo has been building these rhyhms since he was a pre-teen. He leads a two-hour workshop here, followed by a performance that will include the evening's prize pupils. THURSDAY, JAN. 31, AT THE ARTSCENTER. $6–$22/6:15 p.m.
While dissecting her band's appropriately titled 2012 album Internal Logic during an interview with Stereogum, Hannah Lew of California band Grass Widow explained, "We wanted to include whatever we were feeling on the record." Indeed, Grass Widow's mix of organ-led pop, post-punk noise and disorienting harmonies is distinct and singular, an aberration in an environment of garage-rock clones. Stems opens, as well as a solo set from Des Ark. FRIDAY, FEB. 1, AT THE PINHOOK. $10/10 p.m.
Willing, the debut LP from Carrboro quartet Airstrip, is the sound of a steam valve being opened, or, more exactly, the feeling of founder and frontman Matthew Park packing his frustrations with life, love and creativity into nine heavy and immediate pop-rock songs. These tunes are alternately angry, confused, despondent and resigned; they are consistently very good, too. The prolific, exuberant and sassy Whatever Brains open Airstrip's album release show. SATURDAY, FEB. 2, AT KINGS. $7/10 p.m.
COUSINS, OLD QUARTER
The old guard meets Old Quarter: Cousins features Gary Poole and Eddie Taylor, longtime Raleigh rock 'n' rollers leading a new quartet. Last year, the quintet Old Quarter released Live Oak, a broken and busted EP of self-pity and self-reflection, gloriously cast as a next generation of cosmic country. They're well worth scouting. Chip Robinson, the lead Backslider who seems to be living onstage lately, opens. FRIDAY, FEB. 1, AT KINGS. $6/10 p.m.
In 2003, just as her career started to bloom, the whisper-toned jazz singer Jane Monheit sang on three songs for Mark O'Connor's In Full Swing, a fiddle-led jazz romp that also featured Wynton Marsalis. Since then, Monheit has become one of the world's most respected soft singers, her voice lighting upon words like a diaphanous butterfly upon a flower's open blossom. Saturday, she returns the favor by giving O'Connor—a leading bluegrass, classical and jazz instrumentalist— the opening slot. Expect smoldering stage-sharing. SATURDAY, FEB. 2, AT CAROLINA THEATRE. $32–$57/8 p.m.
Like her father, the late Chris Whitley, Trixie Whitley has both an incredible voice (soulful, smoldering, soaring) and an instinct for outlandish arrangements (skipping drums, gnashing guitars, elliptical structures). But on her first LP, the new Fourth Corner, those parallel talents rarely intersect, with Whitley fumbling coltishly in unexpected space-soul-rock ether. In a few years, I expect to take this back, for Whitley to pair her talents and adventurousness on an album that recasts rhythm & blues in a kaleidoscopic array. Maybe she'll even be a star; for now, though, she's uncomfortably preparing. With Dumpster Hunter. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 6, AT LOCAL 506. $10/8:30 p.m.
Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook has won numerous awards, sold barges full of records and packed a lot of large concert halls. It makes sense, as he's an exceptional guitarist, executing flamenco runs so clean they seem cast from molds. His bands are generally rhythmic and precise, too. But it's hard to imagine songs that are more uninspiring and uninspired than those of Cook, whose music seems readymade for prime-time television melodramas and bad public radio. Expect a Cook concert to be admirably insipid and much more expensive than a Putumayo compilation. FRIDAY, FEB. 1, AT CAROLINA THEATRE. $29–$54/8 p.m.